Homers help Brewers jump out early, cruise past reeling Astros

MILWAUKEE -- Felipe Lopez's hustle gave the Milwaukee Brewers a badly needed spark.

Lopez outran a play at first base in the first inning and then hit a three-run homer to cap the eight-run opening frame against Wandy Rodriguez, lifting the Brewers to an 11-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

"Guys pick up on it, everybody got kind of excited," Lopez said. "It was nice."

Ryan Braun added home runs in the first two innings and Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo struck out seven over six innings in what was supposed to be a rematch with Rodriguez, one of the hottest starters in the NL who had won a 2-0 duel Sunday.

"The hustle play by Felipe definitely set the tone, a lot of guys put together some good at-bats, took advantage of every mistake he made and it was nice to get out to a big lead like that and have an easy one," Braun said.

The Brewers jumped on Rodriguez from the start. The left-hander allowed 10 hits and a career-high 10 earned runs and walked five in four innings.

Staked a 10-0 lead, Gallardo (11-9) handcuffed the Astros, losers of 14 of 20, scattering two runs, three hits and three walks to give Milwaukee its second straight win. He also tied a career-high with three RBIs.

"It's always good to get an eight-run lead, I'm sure it's what every pitcher wants," Gallardo said.

The Brewers led the NL Central heading into July before six miserable weeks, but remain seven games behind St. Louis in the division. After a major roster shake up Wednesday, they broke out in a big way against Rodriguez (11-7), who had won his previous six decisions and held the Brewers to five hits in seven scoreless innings on Sunday.

But he failed to cover first base in time on Lopez's chopper to Lance Berkman to lead off the game.

"That was a very bad mistake," said Rodriguez, who mentioned a sore left knee kept him from running full speed. "I didn't feel comfortable on the mound. I pitched very good at home, so I don't know what happened."

Lopez, acquired in a trade with Arizona on July 19, had caught Brewers manager Ken Macha's eye for the wrong reasons in the past few days and committed a costly error in Thursday's 12-9 win that forced the Brewers to use closer Trevor Hoffman.

Macha pulled Lopez to the side before the game, and he came out strong against the Astros.

"It probably had no effect, no effect at all," Macha said of his chat. "I've got no effect on him. That comes from within him. He did a good job, set the tone and we wound up with eight runs in that inning."

Astros manager Cecil Cooper was disappointed with Rodriguez's effort.

"If he had just hustled over and gotten that easy out things might have been different. He just couldn't stop the bleeding and they didn't stop until they put that crooked number up," Cooper said. "You don't like to see that."

After an out, Braun homered to make it 2-0, the most runs Rodriguez had allowed in a start since June 26. It got much worse after Prince Fielder looked at strike three for the second out.

Casey McGehee and Mike Rivera walked, Jason Bourgeois drove in his first career run with a single and Gallardo, who also had a sacrifice fly in the fourth, added a two-run double.

Rodriguez walked Alcides Escobar, called up in place of former All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy, and Lopez homered off the facing of the second deck in left in his second at-bat of the inning to make it 8-0.

Braun homered again, his 25th of the season and third in two days, to lead off the second with Rodriguez letting out a sigh watching the slugger shadow box with Fielder in celebration for the second time.

Gallardo smiled several times with a comfortable lead after he had received an average of 2.3 runs in support over his previous eight starts.

"He deserves it," Braun said. "He deserves a lot of games like this."

Game notes
Astros 2B Kaz Matsui remains one hit from 2,000 combined in the majors and Japan, which would allow him to join Japan's Meikyukai. According to the official site, to be eligible for the club a Japanese player must have 2,000 combined hits, 200 combined wins or 250 combined saves. ... Astros 3B Aaron Boone (heart surgery) went 0 for 2 with a walk, an RBI and a run in five innings at Double-A Corpus Christi in his third rehab appearance. He's expected to play consecutive games for the first time Saturday. ... It was Houston's first visit to Miller Park this season.